Senseless Loss of Endangered Sea Turtles in Pulau Tiga
The discovery of the 60 slaughtered turtles reinforces the urgent need for a concerted effort to eradicate poaching activities in the proposed TMP, and Sabah, in general. The discovery reveals gaps in the enforcement of our laws on turtle protection; both the Sabah State Wildlife Enactment and the Federal Fisheries Act have provisions for turtle protection.
The needs as observed are as follows:
1. Sabah Wildlife Department needs to have assets and capacity to protect and enforce laws for marine species;
2. Enforcement agencies need to conduct more surveillance work;
3. Bureaucracies around the gazettement of TMP need to stop. As a multiple use and collaboratively managed park, TMP should provide a platform for collaboration among agencies and concerted effort for conservation and management of the area;
4. International and regional forums such as the Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME) Tri-National Programme and the Coral Triangle Initiative for Coral Reef, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) need to strongly address issues such as poaching and encroachment into our waters. Through these programmes, Malaysia needs to take the initiative to lead discussions on resolving issues on turtle poaching.
Over time, WWF-Malaysia has received reports from the local community on poaching activities and reported these to the relevant authorities, but to no avail.
WWF-Malaysia believes that the authorities should take seriously information received from the local community. Their information is credible as the water surrounding them is where they depend on for their livelihood. They are aware of what goes on and around them, especially when foreigners or outsiders encroach into their area. They have a community system where they look after each other’s welfare, including protecting their surroundings. It is also to their benefit to ensure their resources are not exploited by outsiders. These islanders are very concerned about encroachment because it can be dangerous for them.
WWF-Malaysia is also working closely with the local community in organizing training of Honorary Wildlife Wardens (HWW) so that they can be deputized in the enforcement of the Wildlife Enactment. We have also helped build support groups of HWW within selected villages or islands who take on the responsibility of monitoring and patrolling their surroundings.
In Kudat, we believe that there is a large turtle smuggling syndicate involving international and local groups that engage coastal and island communities to poach turtles in our waters. It is said that the turtles are being smuggled to China, Vietnam and other eastern countries. These poachers managed to get through the country borders by associating with various local counterparts who smuggle for them. Poaching is illegal, and poachers are criminals. The authorities should take serious and immediate actions against all poaching activities, especially those performed by organised syndicates.
Sea turtles fulfill important roles in marine ecosystems. One of the functions is to maintain the seagrass beds. Removing sea turtles from the ecosystem will have impact on the marine ecosystem. In Malaysia, all turtle populations have declined based on historical data. The Leatherbacks and Olive Ridleys have declined by more than 99% in Malaysia. In Terengganu, the Green turtles, by far the most common species in Malaysia, has declined by more than 20% and Hawksbill turtles by approximately 70%. However way we look at it, the populations for all species have not yet recovered to historical figures.
WWF-Malaysia advocates for amendments to be made to the Federal Constitution or any other means stipulated in the Constitution. The objective is allow Federal Laws to be enacted to enable the implementation of comprehensive and holistic laws governing turtles throughout Malaysia. Comprehensive means to identify all measures (scientific and legal), and management and enforcement regimes (such as development guidelines and protected area management) needed to protect turtles in a holistic way. Holistic denotes that the approach to turtles is from a conservation viewpoint which addresses every threat that impacts turtles.
Dato’ Dr Dionysius Sharma
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For further information:
Angela Lim, Communications Manager, Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion Programme, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +6088 262 420 ext 18 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yeoh Lin Lin, Head of Communications, WWF-Malaysia
Tel: +603-78033772 ext 6400 Email: email@example.com